Part 1 of this topic a determined your consumer category, need for technical support, inclination to DIY and and tolerance for dicking around with your printer, so lets sort out which is the right 3D printer for you.
Select your 3D Printer
The recent publication Make: Design for 3D Printing outlines about a dozen common 3D printers in the marektplace. I compared these printers to the hands on user reviews at 3D Hubs.
3DHubs consists of printer owners around the world, sorted geographically and many of us have rated and reviewed our printers based on our hands on experience.
Replicator mini and Replicator (5th Generation) are in 3DHubs Plug & Play category and the the Mini is rated an 8.6 by 5 reviews and the 5th Gen is 6.3 based on 24 reviews.
Although Design for 3D Printing did not mention the Replicator 2, most of the makes in this publication were produced on one. My main experience has been with the Replicator 2 and it has been a solid workhorse. 3D Hubs lists it in the Enthusiast category and its rated 8.0 based on 114 reviews.
This printer is in the DIY category and ratings fluctuate on 3D Hubs, under different names ie. Mendel 90, Ormerod, Kossel, Prusa i3, however, typically a reprap design rates about 8.0 in the DIY category.
The Prusa i3 is the clear front runner with a solid rating of 8.4 based on 127 reviews.
A consistently strong candidate, the Ultiimater is from Holland and has the loyalty of the open source community and is very popular in makerspaces. It has the most reviews of any of the printers at 3DHubs and it is in the Enthusiast category rated at a solid 8.6.
Downside for me is the 3mm (2.85mm) filament as I use 1.75mm, and I will be sticking with only that size filament and machines that use it.
Relatively new printer out of Poland. It is in 3dHubs Plug & Play category with a very strong 8.9 based on 28 review.
This is a resin printer and is at the top of the heap in 3dHubs Resin category rated at 8.4 based on 30 reviews.
No 3D hub rating. This is a first hardware release from Autodesk, a company better know for is software offerings in the 3D printing industry. It’s sightings and review are rare, which is probably why Design for 3D Printing dubbed it the “unicorn of 3D printers”.
Printrbot (Simple metal and Plus)
Hurray for a kickstarter that went right. I’ve seen several of these in various makerspaces, a solid and consistent little starter machine. This printer is in the Budget Category on 3dHubs, as you can easily get into one for under $1000. The Simple Metal rated at 8.6 based on 13 reviews. This simple printer uses opensource software and comes assembled or you can assemble yourself and save a few dollars.
Not rated on 3D hubs, looks compact, small prints only and filament is proprietary.
PP3DP (UP! Mini, UP! Plus)
On 3DHubs reviews the UP! Mini rated at 8.3 based on 24 review, is in the Budget category and the Up! Plus 2 is rated quite high at 8.8 based on 33 reviews, and is in the plug and play category. Design for 3D Printing points out its popularity among schools “whose first preoccupation isn’t to explain the mechanisms involved, but to produce pieces designed in a CAD program.” Making modifications to the printer is limited, however, it does perform. Messing around with printer performance can be a real time suck and days of lost printing hours. Personally, I like having a machine that performs consistently, and I don’t have to spend alot of hours under the hood. I plan to keep my eye on the UP!
Surprisingly this printer was not rated yet on 3DHubs, I have been watching this company and their stock price:( for some time, as it’s in my back yard of Vancouver, BC. The Ditto Pro seems to be a promising printer and this is next printer I plan to bring into the studio. It has a beautiful aesthetic, which 3D Printers often lack, and often resemble somthing an android threw up. It is also a $2000 machine so we are hoping for reasonable ease of use, low maintenance and superior quality. This machine has been getting a fair bit of attention in Canada as it is being used as part of the 3D Canada Project – we’ll rate soon on 3D Hubs.
A entry level printer for cheap. Rated on 3DHubs at 8.5 based on 8 reviews in the Budget category.
Number 1 in the Plug and Play category (beating the Makerbot Mini) on 3DHubs at 8.9 based on 10 reviews.
Not rated on 3D Hubs, however, is being sold at hardware store in the states a fellow maker at Hanselman.com has written a great post on his experience with the Dremel and has some advice for the printer manufacturer marketing departments:) Also getting serious endorsement from Autodesk.
I hope this comparison of the few printer manufacturers help you make a decision with buying the appropriate machine.
Update: Nov 22, 2015